New Zealand remain on top of the IRB World Rankings after beating France 8-7 in the Rugby World Cup Final on Sunday to lift the Webb Ellis Cup for the first time in 24 years, although their cushion at the top has been reduced slightly.
The All Blacks have occupied top spot for the last 23 months and for nearly 80 per cent of the time since the rankings were introduced in October 2003, but would have surrendered that position to France had they suffered more RWC heartbreak against Les Bleus.
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The world champions only increased their rating slightly to 91.43, but that will matter little as they continued the celebrations with a street parade in Auckland on Monday, the mission having been accomplished for Rugby World Cup 2011.
France’s third, and by far the closest, defeat in a Rugby World Cup Final means they remain third in the rankings behind bronze medal winners Australia and just over three tenths above South Africa, a nation they climbed above last week to break the southern hemisphere dominance of the top three.
Australia’s 21-18 victory over Wales in the Bronze Final on Friday improved their rating by nearly a point and as a result has reduced their deficit to New Zealand to 4.01 points. The defeat was costly for Wales as the points exchange meant they dropped below Ireland and Argentina to eighth.
However, it wasn’t only the final two matches of Rugby World Cup 2011 which had an impact on the latest IRB World Rankings with three European Nations Cup matches resulting in three climbs, the biggest by Israel who jump six places to 61st after beating Austria 28-26.
Israel’s victory in Division 2C came against a lower ranked opponent, but was away from home and with that area of the rankings so tightly congested, the near one point gain was enough to lift them above Niue, Cayman Islands, Thailand, Peru, Malaysia and China.
The defeat saw Austria slip one to 80th, their place being taken over by Bulgaria who were 19-16 winners over Luxembourg in Division 2D. Luxembourg remain 92nd, sandwiched between Vanuatu and Finland at the bottom of the rankings.
The weekend’s other European Nations Cup encounter brought together Lithuania and Sweden in Division 2C, two sides ranked next to each other in 38th and 39th respectively and separated by just half a point. The match ended in a 30-30 draw, but with Lithuania the home side they now slip below Sweden.